G’day Falcons fans, and welcome to the first of a new weekly contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. I’ll analyse the best case scenario for the Falcons, with what are, in my opinion, a few keys to victory, while dunlagh will play devil’s advocate and look at how the game will turn out if we play at our true worst (which at this point in the season, I feel was last week’s horror game.) If you feel you can tolerate me spelling defence with a ‘c’, follow after the jump for an opinionated and lengthy attempt at breaking down the Bengals.
The Falcons win when they’re at home. The Falcons win when they’re up at half time. The Falcons have yet to allow a touchdown in the 4th quarter this season. In my opinion, if the Falcons receive first and put up 7, we’re halfway to beating the Bengals. Best case scenario for the Falcons - score early, establish the run, stop their rushing attack.
Score Early: The one thing I’ve been most disappointed about in the Falcons this year is our inability to jump out of the blocks. In my opinion, this season is easily the worst since the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era began in terms of quick scores, with the Falcons giving up the first score in four from six games. Under Smith, Atlanta are 19-1 when leading at half time. Combine that with our 15-1 home record with Ryan starting, and I think it’s clear to see that early scores win us games. While we’ve proven we can win playing catch up football (14-0 vs San Fran), we’ve also had insurmountable scores posted against us early (last week’s dismal 21-0). We have received first in all our games from memory (no research into that but I’m fairly certain of it.) Weems has been solid in the return game, and is due to break it one of these days (though I’ve been saying that for 3 years). Good field position = early points. Early points = half time leads. Half time leads = a Falcons win.
Establish the run: We’re coming up against a Bengals unit which is ranked 18th against the rush, allowing over 110 yards a game. Despite coming off the bye, their D is missing key playmaker DE Antwan Odom, serving the first game of his four game suspension. The Falcons are 14-1 when Turner has at least 22 carries. After his worst game of the season last week (worse than the Steelers game I feel), Turner will have some fire in his belly on Sunday. It was evident during camp he felt he had something to prove, and he’s gone a long way to further confuse analysts with very inconsistent games. 1 TD all year, deep in the red zone, is a worry for Michael, but I feel this is a perfect game for him to bounce back.
The Bengals have come up against some impressive runners (Ray Rice and Peyton Hillis) and have looked shaky when hit by smashmouth runners (of which Michael Turner fits the bill brilliantly). An established run game, along with the lack of a pass rushing threat (with John Fanene slowed by a hamstring injury) and the return of Michael Jenkins, should allow Ryan to relax a bit more in the pocket and pick apart a banged up Bengals secondary.
I can see Turner having a big game, 120+ yards, 1 TD.
Stop their rushing attack: Let’s shift the focus for a while. Everyone is talking about the T.O./Ochocinco partnership. It’s impressive, for sure. Our pass coverage is a little weak this week, with D-Rob out after recording the biggest (legal!) hit of the season last week, meaning Chris Owens must step up. I think we can all agree that Owens needs a little help, as he’s been thrown in the deep end a little here. That being said I do remember Owens bringing in some huge picks last year, so I’ve got a lot of faith in the kid (and I know dunlagh has quite the soft spot for our usual nickel back). Our entire secondary looked very listless at times last week, but that can be said about the entire team on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati are ranked 18th rushing the football, averaging 103 yards a game. Cedric Benson has showed flashes but has in no way recaptured his fine early ’09 form. If our 9th ranked, 98 yards per game, run defence can show up, we’ll be able to only rush three linemen and get Brian Williams onto the field to help out against Batman and Robin.
We can (and should) help our secondary out, by making the consistently inconsistent Carson Palmer win the game himself. Palmer has a 7/6 touchdown/interception ratio this year, and at times has looked straight out moronic (the final three minutes of the Tampa Bay game was the worst stretch I’ve seen a QB have this season). If we stuff the run early, and force Palmer to win the game himself, I see a 5 sack or 3 pick game from our suddenly inspirational defence.
Well there it is, maybe I got a little excited and carried away there. If only I wrote needlessly lengthy essays that quickly when they were being graded, right? If you liked the article, discuss below. If not, criticise me publicly and I’ll try and pull it together before our game against Tampa. Either way, thanks for reading the first of, what I hope to be many, Best Case Scenario articles. Be sure to check out dunlagh’s Worst Case Scenario article here. Thanks for reading, and let’s bounce back strongly Falcons!